Australian mining company Direct Nickel and Indonesia’s state-owned Aneka Tambang (Antam) are planning to raise finances for their $1bn nickel laterite deposits processing plant in Halmahera.

The DNi processing plant to be located at Antam’s Buli operation is estimated to require an investment of around $800m to $1bn.

Antam finance director Djaja Tambunan told Jakarta Globe: "This project’s cost is huge. Direct Nickel is also looking around for financing."

Direct Nickel holds 85% stake in the plant while Antam owns 15%. The latter has an option to increase its stake to 50%.

The DNi processing plant will be developed adjacent to Antam’s new ferronickel smelter. It is expected to produce 10,000t to 20,000t nickel concentrate a year.

The Buli plant will implement Direct Nickel’s in-house processing technology.

"The DNi processing plant is expected to produce 10,000t to 20,000t nickel concentrate a year."

The atmospheric hydrometallurgical process uses nitric acid as the leaching agent in treating nickel laterite ores.

According to the company, the subsequent use of a patented process recycles more than 95% of the nitric acid used.

The DNi process was tested at a pilot plant in Australia using nickel ore extracted from the Buli mine. The test plant processed one ton of ore a day.

Direct Nickel said that the demonstration has proved that the process has high recoveries of nickel and other by-products such as cobalt, iron ore and magnesium oxide.

The two companies hope to benefit from the ore export ban imposed by the Indonesian Government in January.

Direct Nickel expects the global nickel market to tighten up due to the ban resulting in an increase of prices. Indonesia is the world’s largest exporter of nickel ore.

Image: A sample of nickel processed at Direct Nickel’s pilot plant in Australia. Photo: courtesy of Direct Nickel.